Broken Flowers (2005)
For good or bad, it isn't particularly surprising that Jim Jarmusch's latest outing, Broken Flowers was hailed by the Cannes jury while being completely ignored by the Academy. In typical Jarmusch fashion, this is a notoriously low-key, meticulously structured and deliberately slow-paced film starring the rejuvenated Bill Murray embarking on a quest in search of his alleged son. Conducting a film like Jarmusch does here can turn out either way; it may become a tedious and tensionless drag, or it may turn out as it does here - a magnetically fascinating piece of film.
Jarmusch style of direction is delicate. It requires balance to make it work; here it really does. When you can allow yourself to be confident enough to include seemingly empty scenes of stillness (or several seconds of a take-off, bookended by a slow fade-in/fade-out), and make it work, you can really benefit from that when the more semantically weighty scenes come up. In Broken Flowers, the pleasant build-up (largely fuelled by an inspired Jeffrey Wright) builds the perfect platform for the film's road-movie part in which Jarmusch is able to conduct some of the most enthralling and enigmatic sequences of his career. It's as if Murray is carried around almost undeliberately by the captivating nature of Jarmusch's narrative. Sequences involving Sharon Stone and the wonderful Alexis Dziena (in an explicit homage to Nabokov), the alienated Frances Conroy and the sparkling Christopher McDonald, and not to forget the delightful mystique of Jessica Lange all make Broken Flowers completely irresistible. The multitude of moods Jarmusch manages to convey during Murray's visits to his former lovers is impressive. From the warm hospitality of Stone and Dziena to the estranged coldness of the Conroy/McDonald residence, the enigmatic Lange, and finally the hostile Hillbillies at Tilda Swinton.
Broken Flowers is a poetic movie - very symbolic and very rich on imagery. In many respects, one could make a claim that we're dealing with a more narratively coherent Mulholland Dr.: Both films have a lot to offer, are beautifully enigmatic, and ignites a genial process in the viewer. If you allow it, this process can be extremely rewarding. That is - if you're not too dependent on simple answers.